Posts Tagged ‘Hertzler farm in Denbigh’

The Denbigh Farm-Now and Then

Last weekend (February 2, 2019) when we went to Norfolk, we came home through Newport News, or more specifically, Denbigh.  It was with dread and curiosity that we turned down Colony Road and approached the home place. It is no longer home, just a place where home used to be. A memory, with all the reminders gone.  No longer family, just strangers walking the sod. As we approached the once familiar spot, we stopped by a large entrance sign welcoming us to the neighborhood.

I guess it made the developer feel better to call it “Meadows”. The meadow is long gone-only a throw back memory of horses grazing in the pastures. Instead, pristine houses have been planted and paved streets laid where stately, productive pecan trees, daylilies, irises, asparagus, and peonies once flourished. The squirrels, songbirds and woodpeckers have found other nesting places as only one lonely pecan tree still stands. The meadow of wildflowers and native grasses is now a sea of houses.

We always knew where to turn into the drive circling the old farmhouse, it was obvious, but now suddenly we didn’t know. We looked at the row of houses and wondered which one sat on THE spot.  And then we spied the one lone pecan tree that stood as a sad memorial to bygone days. It really looked pitiful and out of place. No longer was it a tall, stately tree; somehow it seemed to shrivel in size and demeanor. Gene finally decided it was the tree at the back left corner of the house where it cast its shadow over dad’s car.

Paved streets, concrete curbs and sidewalks have now replaced overgrown hedge rows. There is a street named after Dad Hertzler. Dad knew this time would come. He fought hard to protect and preserve the farm where he, and his father and grandfather before him tilled the soil.  In the last few years of his life, Dad reconciled with himself that he was the end of an era. It was time to let go. Even though he set the plans in motion,  he didn’t have to see it actually happen. With Dad’s passing, the last parcel of the original 1,200 acre Young Plantation bowed its head and ceased to exist as a farm.

We drove down Colony Road, turned left on Hertzler Road. The old swampy, algae covered pond on the backside of the farm is still there. It is on protected wet lands. We turned left on Miller Road completing the block as we quietly cruised by the cemetery where Dad and Mama Hertzler along with many other patriarchs of the Denbigh Colony rest in peace under the boughs of huge shade trees.

The Before…

Sign welcoming us to Quarterfield Farm Stables.

1994: Daddy and Mama sitting in the yard under the pecan tree. One of my favorite pictures.

The farmhouse: rich in history, full of memories.  It survived the fire in but not the bulldozers! (See blog post below, “Fire”).

 

Dad’s favorite iris.

The garden plot with the row of pecan trees beside the driveway.

No paved driveway.

Horses grazing in the meadow.

Horses instead of bicycles.

Time moves on, the old gives way to new.  We treasure the memories and hold them dear to our hearts.

Gone, but not forgotten!

Other blog posts about the farm:

Gone Except for the Memories

Today we went to Denbigh (Newport News) to attend the 120-year homecoming celebration at Warwick River Mennonite Church in Newport News. But first, we had to drive past the farm-Quarterfield Farm, Gene’s home place fronting on Colony and Hertzler Road.  Well, it used to be a farm, now it is just a memory.

 

The house site

The garden plot

For 118 years, it was a fertile, productive farm (dairy, then a horse boarding facility) within sight of the Warwick River and belonged to the Hertzler family: Great-grandpa, grandpa and then dad Hertzler.

The once lush meadows and pastures are now pushed over trees, tractors have given way to bulldozers and houses are starting to grace the landscape instead of pecan, walnut, crepe myrtle and oak trees. They tell us the house, barn, machine shed, milk house and shop were demolished 2 weeks ago. What once was a familiar homestead is now a dirt construction site. The pecan trees and shrubbery are still standing marking the outline of the yard but we were told they too will soon be gone. All traces of history have been removed, never to be recovered or preserved. This history was more than just Gene’s family. It was an important part of the history of Mennonites who came to Denbigh. In 1897 D.Z. Yoder and Isaac D. Hertzler (Gene’s great-grandpa) came to Denbigh and purchased a 1200 acre plantation for $10 an acre. This quickly attracted the interest of many other Mennonites in Maryland, Ohio, Pennsylvania and other parts of Virginia who moved there. The land was divided between the families forming a very unique close-knit faith and agricultural community called  “The Colony”.

A new house now built in the front pasture.

The neighbors fought hard against city hall pleading for a park, a preservation of the cherished land. They fought City Hall and City Hall won. A sign saying “Hertzler Meadow” almost feels like a taunt.

It feels sad and as a family we now only have a marker in the church cemetery a mile from the farm to document Oliver and Anna Mae Hertzlers’ existence.

But, they are not forgotten. We have memories, lots and lots of memories, precious memories and pictures that we do and will continue to cherish. Dad Hertzler knew the inevitable was coming and he had worked out the plans before his death. We are just glad he didn’t have to see the reality of it.

It reminds us of the frailty of life. We are only here for a few short years and then we are gone, never to return.

What will be our legacy?

How will we be remembered when there is nothing left but a tombstone?

 

All flesh is like grass, and it’s loveliness as the flower of the field.

Isaiah 40:6

As for man, his days are as grass; as the flower of the field so he flourished. For the wind passes over it and it is gone; and the place remembers it no more.

Psalms 103: 15-16

This is a unique, to scale model of “The Colony” made by Sam Brunk for the 100th Anniversary showing how it was in 1947. It is now solid development. The 60 acres owned by Dad Hertzler was the last piece of land to be sold. He held on to the land tenaciously even though the city was determined to force him out.

Quarterfield Farm, farm of Henry-Anna Hertzler, Gene’s grandpa.

 

Some related blog posts about the farm.

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